Larry Devlin, CIA, chief of station, Congo
Dec. 24, 2008
Larry Devlin, 86, a CIA station chief in Congo who claimed to have refused an order to assassinate the ousted prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, during the newly independent nation's chaotic early days, has died.
Devlin died Dec. 6 of emphysema at his home west of Fredericksburg, Va., according to Found and Sons Funeral Chapels.
In the fall of 1960, shortly after assuming his duties as station chief in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), he received a packet of poisons that included toxic toothpaste, and said he was ordered to carry out a political assassination.
At the time, Congolese factions were battling for control of the new nation. The United States and the Soviet Union were maneuvering for influence over Congo's bountiful resources, particularly cobalt, a critical mineral used in missiles.
The CIA under Director Allen Dulles determined that the nation's first democratically elected prime minister, Lumumba, had the potential to be an African Fidel Castro and must be eliminated.
In an interview this year, Devlin told The New York Times he had no qualms about bribery, blackmail and other Cold War tactics – “all part of the game,” he said – but killing Lumumba, he believed, would have been disastrous worldwide.
Joseph Mobutu took over Congo in a U.S.-backed coup in 1965 and ruled the nation (renamed Zaire) for 32 years. Although Mobutu grew corrupt and autocratic, Devlin said he thought the CIA's work in Africa helped prevent the Soviet Union from taking over much of the continent. Washington Post